The Pakistani political crisis triggered by the resignation of the prime minister, and appointment of a temporary caretaker prime minister until the November elections, has become more complicated. There may not be sufficient time to prepare for national elections. The Pakistani constitution calls for new elections to be held within 60 days of the dissolution of parliament and the ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) doubts that all the preparations can be ready in time. The government recently approved the digital census that found the population to be 241 million. The last count was in 2017 when the number was 207 million. Election laws stipulate that, after a census, new constituency borders must be established and voters notified where to vote in new elections. Election officials insist that with all these requirements it is unlikely that new elections can be held in 2023 and that early 2024 is more likely. These realities must be handled by a caretaker prime minister alone because the previous parliament has been dissolved.
Whichever government is in charge, Pakistan has plenty of economic problems that need attention. The economy is a mess and that has a very direct impact on most Pakistanis.
August 19, 2023: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) a roadside bomb killed eleven civilians and wounded two others. The was apparently placed by an Islamic terrorist group.
August 18, 2023: In northwest India (Kashmir) Indian troops are encountering fewer Islamic terrorists trained in Pakistan trying to sneak across the border. India has installed a network of sensors along the Pakistani border in Kashmir. This has reduced successful illegal border crossings considerably. Because so many infiltration attempts fail, there is a lot less Islamic terrorist violence in Kashmir. As a result of that, the Indian and foreign tourists have returned, helping to revive the local economy. During the first six months of 2023, there were 15,000 foreign tourists, compared to 4,000 for all of 2022. Until the 1980s, tourism was a key component of a thriving Kashmir economy. Then the Pakistani terrorism campaign began and it took over three decades to suppress it.
In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) soldiers responding to a tip found and fought two armed men, who were killed.
August 17, 2023: In Pakistan (Punjab Province) thousands of local Moslems attacked four Christian churches and the homes of several local Christians. This violence was caused by accusations that local Christians had desecrated a copy of the Koran. So far 129 of the protesters have been arrested in an effort to stop the violence. Police also filed a case against two local Christians for violations of the blasphemy law, which carries the death sentence. Pakistan has severe blasphemy laws that are mostly used by Moslems against innocent Christians or other non-Moslems. Efforts to repeal these laws, or at least limit their misuse, are violently resisted by Islamic political parties. When Pakistan blasphemy laws are used against Moslems it is usually for revenge or political reasons. The laws are unpopular with the majority of Pakistanis. But the minority who do support the laws, are willing to use lethal force to keep the laws on the books. These blasphemy laws were enacted in the 1970s at the behest of the military. The opposition to repealing these laws is violent and fearless. In 2011 the Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards because Taseer had openly opposed the blasphemy laws. There are currently about three million Christians in Pakistan and about the same number of Hindus. These religious minorities are generally left alone and official persecution is prohibited. To openly persecute local Christians and Hindus would cause problems with Western countries and India, which is largely Hindu but has a Moslem majority that is larger than the Moslem population of Pakistan. Indian Moslems generally live better lives than Moslems in Pakistan. For one thing, religious persecution of Christians or Moslems is rare inside India.
August 16, 2023: In eastern India the Maoist rebels were once a major problem but the Maoist activity has declined, as has violence by tribal separatists in northeast India. Pakistan-backed Islamic terrorists are still a problem in the northwest (Kashmir) and China continues to threaten the use of force to take Indian territory China has long claimed as its own. China has reduced its operations on the Indian border because of more pressing problems inside China and with Taiwan and the United States over threat to Taiwan and Chinese outposts in the South China Sea. The South China Sea problems extend into the Indian Ocean and make India and the United States allies against China. Not very active allies, but both countries have an interest in halting Chinese advances into the Indian Ocean.
August 15, 2023: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) two TTP (Pakistani Taliban) gunmen were killed by security forces. This area is part of the traditional tribal territories and local tribal leaders want the security forces to keep hostile gunmen from the TTP out of the area. The TTP has sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan where the new (since 2022) IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government is still trying to exercise control over all of Afghanistan. One notable IEA achievement is the elimination of nearly all poppy crops. Poppies are the raw material for the production of heroin and the IEA is determined to eliminate heroin production in Afghanistan, which is currently the source of nearly all heroin production. Smaller amounts of heroin are produced in a few other areas in the region but the loss of Afghan heroin will be noticed internationally. The lack of heroin means that more powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl are being produced and used more widely.
August 14, 2023: In Pakistan, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar was sworn in as caretaker prime minister until national elections are held in November. Caretaker prime ministers are usually respected retired politicians that are generally acceptable to all major parties as a caretaker. Kakar is a 52-year-old former senator and he resigned from his political party, which he founded, to further demonstrate his dedication to administering the government rather than governing during his brief tenure as caretaker prime minister. It’s an honor to be appointed caretaker prime minister and the seven previous caretaker prime ministers appointed to the position performed as expected.
August 13, 2023: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) several armed members of the separatist BLA (Baluchi Liberation Army) attacked a military convoy transporting Chinese workers to a construction site at the new port of Gwadar. Pakistani soldiers escorting the convoy fired back, killing two of the BLA men and the rest retreated. There were no casualties to anyone in the convoy.
August 11, 2023: In northeast India, the government is openly siding with the military government in Myanmar (Burma). The Myanmar government depends on Chinese support to survive and now India is offering to help. The reason for this change is the current situation on the Burmese border. India has a 1,4oo kilometer border with Burma in the northeast and long had problems with tribal separatist rebels there, on both sides of the border. India finally worked out peace deals with all their rebels before the pro-India elected government in Burma was ousted in February 2021. The Burmese army war with northern tribes resumed because the army is seen as the main reason for all the corruption and illegal Chinese economic activity in the north. Since then, there has been a lot more fighting in northern Burma and a lot of refugees fleeing to India. The Indian government has ordered border police to turn away or forcibly return such refugees to Burma. Local state governors refuse to enforce those orders, if only because so many of the refugees have kin in India. Many of the refugees belong to the same tribe that straddles the border. A lot of non-tribal Burmese entered as well and India sought to stop those refugees to avoid more trouble with China. The state governors protected these refugees as well. In some cases, separatist tribal gunmen in India used force to block Indian government efforts to curb the flow of refugees. The federal government has not escalated this dispute, in part because the local resistance is an adequate excuse for allowing the Burma refugees in despite protests from China. The Myanmar military government is sustained by China, which provides all the fuel, bombs, shells and other munitions needed to keep the fight going. Burmese troops are reluctant to fight when they encounter armed resistance, which continues in the tribal areas. Without Chinese support the Burmese generals could not have sustained their coup and might not even have attempted it without assurances of Chinese support. India and other nations bordering China see the Burma coup as a threat.
August 9, 2023: In Pakistan, parliament was dissolved and preparations are underway for new elections. Over the weekend former prime minister Imran Khan was sentenced to three years in prison for financial misconduct and barred from participating in politics for five years. Khan was taken to a prison near the capital to serve his sentence. Khan’s numerous followers are appealing his sentence to the high court and that may succeed. Khan was planning a political comeback in the fall elections. His major obstacle was the military. Khan sought in his prior administration to limit the economic and political power of the military and the military refused to cooperate. The generals have become rich and free from civilian control through corruption and did not want that changed, Slowly the army gained control over or cooperation from more political parties. That enabled them to get Khan removed from his position as prime minister (PM) in April 2022. Khan lost his job as prime minister via a no-confidence vote by a parliamentary majority. He was the first PM to be removed this way. Most PMs are removed by the president of Pakistan, which is another, less messy, form of no-confidence vote. Since the founding of Pakistan in 1947, no PM has completed their five-year term. The main reason for Khan’s political allies to turn against him was economic; high unemployment and inflation, plus increasing Islamic terrorist violence and some diplomatic disasters. There was another reason, and that was Khan’s efforts to bring the Pakistani military under civilian control.
August 3, 2023: Indian diplomacy takes advantage of the growing problems Afghanistan has with Pakistan by encouraging increasingly friendly relations with India. The oldest Afghan-Pakistan issue is the Pakistani military’s lucrative participation in Afghanistan’s drug trade, which the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) Taliban government appears to have shut down. Over 90 percent of Afghan poppies are produced in one Afghan province; Helmand. Then as now, neighboring Pakistan cooperates to make this work because essential chemicals must be imported to refine the opium into heroin. Now Afghan customers for those chemicals are no longer receiving these items. Pakistan is no longer operating as the major route to worldwide drug markets via Pakistani airports and its seaport in Karachi. Afghanistan’s other neighbors (Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) are very hostile to the drug smugglers and noted they aren’t operating along the Afghan border any more. Afghanistan’s northern neighbors, all former Soviet “republics”, have long received armed assistance from Russia to combat the drug smugglers. Russia has withdrawn most of its troops from nations bordering northern Afghanistan and sent them to fight in Ukraine.
July 26, 2023: The war in Ukraine has confirmed the inferiority of Russian weapons compared to Western models. For years some countries, like Pakistan, received most of its weapons from China or Russia. The Chinese gear is superior to what the Russians produce but still inferior to Western systems. Pakistan is China’s largest export customer for weapons and Pakistani military leaders now want to repair relations with the Americans, who withdrew all military aid after decades of being lied to by the Pakistani military about their support for Islamic terrorism. That support backfired with the new Afghan government, installed with much help from the Pakistani government, threatening war with Pakistan over border disputes and growing anger inside Afghanistan against Pakistan because of the even greater economic collapse in Afghanistan.
July 25, 2023: China granted Pakistan some debt relief by deferring repayment of $2.1 billion in loans from China for two years. This included suspending interest payments. Pakistan is the largest export customer for Chinese weapons and the destination for billions in Chinese construction investments. Foreign lenders and investors, especially the IMF (international monetary fund), China and Saudi Arabia, have lost patience with Pakistan and are unwilling to take further financial risks there. One financial risk is the $77 billion debt to China and Saudi Arabia. This money is supposed to be repaid between 2023 and 2026. Pakistan doesn’t have the money to make the payments and is trying to negotiate an extension. Until this issue is resolved there will be no more loans or investments from China or Saudi Arabia. A side-effect of all this financial turmoil is high (47 percent) inflation which is felt by all Pakistanis. The primary cause of all this financial distress is the Pakistan military, which is currently controlling the government in Pakistan. The excessive military influence on Pakistani politics has been an issue since Pakistan was created after World War II. China and India did not have that problem, for different reasons. The Indian politicians insisted from the beginning that the military remain subservient to the elected government. The Chinese communists took control of the Chinese government after World War II and continually reminded the military leaders that their main job was to keep the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) in power. In Pakistan the parliament could not control the generals, who periodically took control of the government for a few years and then let the politicians return to power. During those periods when the generals were in charge they often made poor economic decisions. One was to purchase more weapons from China than Pakistan could afford or pay for. Now Pakistan has more debt than it can handle and related economic mistakes have put Pakistan in a debt crisis that requires an expensive and politically difficult solution. The major lenders will have to take losses and Pakistan will have to change and reduce what it spends, especially on the military. Unless the Pakistani economy is put right there is increasing risk of popular violence and a civil war.
July 20, 2023: Despite continued IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government denials, they appear to be tolerating the presence of al Qaeda personnel as well as TTP (the Pakistani Taliban). TTP support was expected but IEA insists it will not tolerate any Islamic terror groups. They are either lying or simply don’t have much control in many parts of the country. UN officials supervising aid deliveries noticed al Qaeda training camps in five provinces in addition to many more safehouses. Suicide bombers are being trained and indoctrinated for use outside Afghanistan. Some are being sent to Western countries where they can hide among the many Afghan refugees fleeing IEA rule. The IEA is also continuing to impose more lifestyle restrictions similar to those they enforced in the 1990s. This includes a ban on listening to live or recorded music. The IEA also censored what could be shown by Afghan TV stations. This meant no shows that had women with uncovered faces as well as no music. The IEA wants women appearing in public to wear the burqa (covers everything except the hands and eyes.) Many rural Afghans support some of these urban ideas, especially education for girls and more education in general. Beyond that these rural Afghans tend to be more conservative than those living in urban areas. The IEA is having a hard time coping with the current Afghanistan, which is quite different from the one they ruled before September 11, 2001.
July 18, 2023: The three nations (China, Russia and Pakistan) that have the most economic activity with Afghanistan are urging the IEA to help Afghanistan as well as the IEA by allowing women to work and not continuing to impose more restrictions on women. The latest restriction is the IEA order to close all beauty parlors in Afghan cities. This was not received well by Afghan women, and there were several public protests by women which the IEA suppressed without killing anyone. Afghans consider it more important to crack down on the drug cartels and Islamic terror groups that currently operate freely. So far the IEA has ignored these suggestions. In response, the world largely ignored the IEA and Afghanistan and blocked IEA access to billions of frozen funds in foreign banks. There is a similar reluctance to deliver food aid, because IEA might divert some of it to markets, where it can be sold at high prices.
July 17, 2023: The ongoing border dispute between India and China continues. Both sides have sought to keep this dispute from escalating into a major war. That doesn’t mean Indian and Chinese troops have not been fighting each other, they have just kept non-lethal, not non-violent. Both sides now use clubs, shields and occasionally rocks when they clash. There have been a few deaths, but these have been accidental. Rather medieval and a lot less lethal than the alternative. Some disputed border areas have come under Chinese control. Nothing extensive and all of it high in the generally uninhabitable mountains the border runs through.
July 15, 2023: India has long been an enthusiastic user of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). So have India’s enemies, especially Pakistan-backed Islamic terrorists who operate from the Pakistani side of the border in northwest India. This combat zone of Kashmir and the border area is heavily defended by both sides. This led to both sides eventually using various types of UAVs to patrol this border, and occasionally briefly cross the border. The most frequent and aggressive border activity is by Pakistan in support of allegedly non-Pakistani Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan who are officially allowed to attack Indian-held Kashmir. These UAVs are used to assist Islamic terrorists to cross the heavily defended border and reach the Indian side undetected. Larger quadcopters are also used to transport small quantities of supplies across the border from Pakistan to India. This is nothing new, drug smugglers have been caught using quadcopters to get drugs across the Mexican border into the United States or criminals using quadcopters to smuggle contraband into prisons. Quadcopters carrying explosives have been used as weapons, most recently by Ukrainians against Russians. India responded to the Pakistani quadcopter threat by developing an AUD (Anti UAV Defense) that uses an electronic system to detect quadcopters and then disrupt their navigation systems.